How long has it been since I embarrassed myself with an iPad fanboy post?

Too long, my friends. Too long.

Apple Inc. has started manufacturing a new version of its iPad tablet computer with a built-in camera and faster processor, said people familiar with the matter.

The new iPad will be thinner and lighter than the first model, these people said. It will have at least one camera on the front of the device for features like video-conferencing, but the resolution of the display will be similar to the first iPad, these people said. It will also have more memory and a more powerful graphics processor, they said.

The new iPad will initially be available through Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc., but not Sprint Nextel Corp. or T-Mobile USA in the U.S., according to some of the people familiar with the matter…

Piper Jaffray & Co. estimates Apple will sell 27 million iPads in 2011, and some investors expect as many as 35 million units in sales. “It’s going to be a critical growth driver,” said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray.

I held off on getting one for months after it was released last year, swayed by umpteen thousand Hot Air commenters who insisted that only a true chump would bother with a first-gen device. Then, in the fall, I was given one for free, and the clouds parted and a light shone down. It’s a nifty device: Doesn’t do much that the iPhone doesn’t do unless you’re into the higher-end iPad games, but the pleasure of playing/reading/watching/tweeting on a big screen makes the experience qualitatively different. I used to worry that the two would be redundant but they’ve ended up serving distinct purposes, with the iPhone as the in-a-pinch portable option and the iPad the lounging-around-the-house choice. If the redundancy issue worries you too, it’s worth playing with an iPad for a few minutes when next you find yourself in an Apple store. You’ll see what I mean about the difference, how the size adds a new dimension of accessibility to the apps.

Exit question: What’s worse than a chump blogger who’s already saving his money for iPad 2? Exit answer: A chump blogger who’s already saving his money for iPad 3.